“House of Cards” recap (2.13): Tumbling Down, Clawing Up


Frank watches Madama Butterfly, with half an eye—he’s really waiting to be called outside. Or rather, into a hallway. Hello, Tusk. Tusk always wants to hear a competing offer. He knows Frank must have one, but is skeptical that the Vice President can put up anything as good as a pardon. Frank says he’s not your typical Vice President. Oh, really?

HoC 5Photo by Nathaniel Bell/Image courtesy of Netflix

Frank says that what he can do is whip votes, and that if Walker will not survive impeachment. Tusk, who for a bright guy still has a lot to figure out, doesn’t think Frank can pull that same weight in the Senate. Frank notes that yes, Walker might squeak past impeachment, but then Tusk has tied himself to an utterly powerless President. And if Walker gets convicted, they all go to jail and nobody gets a pardon. Frank gives Tusk the investor one last chance to minimize his risk: Frank can repair relations with China and get Tusk’s business humming again. As Puccini echoes through the hallways, Tusk tells Frank to remember the beautiful music when he’s in jail. Frank walks away putting a bold face on it, humming the Presidential theme instead.

Gavin the Parrot puts Cashew back in her cage, and I believe he’s using that upper hand he now has with Green. Green is worried about his ability to get Brown out of jail and how to drop the charges against Gavin without tipping off the whole Bureau on to the fact that something fishy (Cashewy?) is going on. Green proposes bringing Gavin on with the FBI, but somehow making Gavin betray his own friends and threatening to crush his guinea pig has turned him off working for the Feds forever. Gavin catalogues Green’s inability to do a damn thing and then says he going to meet with Doug Stamper, and all deals are off. Cashew laughs her water bottle right off the wall. I think Green’s cage may be in need of cleaning.

Claire is blowing off steam — dragons have so much steam to blow off, even on low-stress days — on the rowing machine when Frank gets back to Murky Towers. She knows Raymond said no, even though Frank spins it as neither a yes nor a no. So Tusk could still name Frank, could still send him to jail. Unacceptable. Frank says he’s trying. Trying? Trying is not good enough for Claire. She is Dark Yoda: Try not. Do. Or do not, in which case I will stuff your own charred intestines straight down your still-screaming mouth. There is no try.

Frank is exhausted and defeated, ready to roll the dice and let the chaos just play out and hope for the best. He says he can’t very well sit in the hearings with a gun pointed at Tusk’s head. Claire isn’t having this. If Tusk can’t be controlled and won’t listen to Frank, she wants Walker himself to call off Tusk. Frank complains that he can’t force a man who thinks he’s the enemy to call him his friend.

Oh, Claire is angry now. She was assured she wouldn’t need to prepare for the worst. She’s done what she needed to do, no matter how ruthless she needed to be. Claire held up until her weakness burst through the cracks and then she choked it back away and built herself up again and now Frank is falling down. And if you want to know why anything else happens to or for Frank Underwood for the rest of the series, it is because of Claire, right in this moment. Don’t even think for a second that he could have done this himself.

Claire rises up from the machine, wings unfurling with ravishing menace, the new extra-hard scales on her belly glinting in the faint lights of Murky Towers.

“Seduce him,” she orders. “Give him your heart. Cut it out and put it in his fucking hands.”

Frank walks into the next room, knowing that somehow, somehow, he has to do Claire’s bidding. There is no question. Do. He starts to write a note by hand, then pulls out an old Underwood typewriter instead. It’s a talismanic typewriter, old even when it was given to him by his father, and it will not fail him.

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Frank, as he does in crises, feints and strikes with his selective honesty. Frank lies that he doesn’t want to diminish the President, but truthfully admits that he wants to be the President. With that seeming vulnerability in place, Frank goes back to lying that he only wants to follow and support Walker in his leadership.

Frank tells the story of walking in on his father’s failed suicide, of his father begging Frank to pull the trigger for him. And tells how, years later, he regretted that he hadn’t. As a finishing touch, Frank includes a trigger for Walker to pull, if he chooses: A “false” confession to the crimes Walker has been accused of. Frank says he’s willing to sacrifice himself for the President, which is another lie. Frank is only willing to sacrifice himself for Claire.

Walker, not a complete dim bulb, only half believes this. He calls Frank to let him know that Tricia has faith in the Underwoods, but Garrett isn’t sure. Walker says Frank’s good intentions won’t help him survive impeachment; he wants proof. He wants whipped votes in the House. Frank protests that that mean Jackie Sharp is making this very difficult. Frank says the key battle is really making sure the President avoids conviction. Frank says he’ll keep whipping votes and getting information. Walker, feeling something soothing about the whole exchange, like being in a tub of water that’s being heated oh-so-gently, suggests that he and Frank talk tomorrow. The door is open, and Frank’s clawfoot is on the threshold again.

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